The major challenge facing the print industry during the next 10 years isn’t technology and marketing, but rather finding and training good people. A recent study conducted by several Printing Industries of America (PIA) Affiliates asked: What percentage of your skilled workforce (Production Personnel) do you estimate will retire in the next 5 to 10 years? More than 50 percent of the respondents indicated that a significant amount (30-50 percent) of their workforce would retire in that period. The same survey showed that the median age in the offset pressroom was over 45 in nearly two-thirds of the companies surveyed. (Refer to the infographics)

As the print industry struggles with shortages of skilled workers, increased emphasis is placed on what can be done to attract a pipeline of younger talent. Enter the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, which took place June 19-23 in Louisville, KY.

The SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference is a national competition for public high school and college/postsecondary students enrolled in career and technical education programs. The world’s largest showcase of skilled trades brought together more than 15,000 students, teachers, education leaders and representatives from 600 national corporations, trade associations, businesses and labor unions.

The print industry was well-represented, especially the production printing segment.

Students in the SkillsUSA graphic communications championship practice using the Xerox and EFI equipment the day before the competition

Working in close partnership with SkillsUSA, Xerox Corporation and EFI participated in the digital press operations portion of the Graphic Communications competition. Students completed pre-press, printing and finishing tasks on six Xerox Digital Presses with EX Print Servers, powered by Fiery®. These accomplishments demonstrated proficiency and interest in key skills required for jobs in the Graphic Communications/Print industry.

Mentoring and Coaching Make a Difference

Students received coaching and mentoring from onsite marketing, technical and training resources from both Xerox and EFI, as they practiced with mock exercises prior to the final competition. By Day Three, students were highly focused and ready to compete. During the awards ceremony, the top three performers won gold, silver and bronze medals in college and high school divisions.

“This experience is phenomenal! Words do not do it justice,” said Dan Wheeler, Graphic Communications Technical Committee Chair of the conference. “You have to be here to truly understand the impact SkillsUSA is having on America’s growing skills gap. Specifically, I believe the investment in education is a lifeline to closing the skills gap in printing and showcasing the fact that print of all types is indeed alive and everywhere.”

Program aims to fill talent pipeline for print industry.

As owner of DK Wheeler Training and Consulting Services, Dan Wheeler has expert insight into career training needs. “We give students experience and exposure to people, products and equipment in our industry. Print is NOT dying; it is evolving. Our tech committee is incorporating that evolution into our contest as we go, changing it every year. So we have wonderful partners, like Xerox that help bring in digital print elements. This year we die cut on our offset presses, bringing in elements of packaging. Next year, maybe large format printing or car wrapping or…who knows! Just look around you, print is everywhere!”

Skilled Workforce Is a Common Goal

Students in the SkillsUSA graphic communications championship practice using the Xerox and EFI equipment the day before the competition. The students, wearing white shirts, are being advised by Danny McCray of Xerox, far left, and Malcolm Crawford of EFI, center.Providing a skilled workforce in the Graphic Communications/Print industry is a goal shared by SkillsUSA, Xerox Corporation and EFI. To further that objective, Xerox developed a robust learning and mentoring platform – the Xerox Digital Career Pathway Program (XDCPP). XDCPP provides digital production printing curriculum and hands-on training to teach skills aligned to the National PrintED Accreditation process. Currently in use in about 20 states, the Xerox program supports building the future print industry workforce through education (K-12, community and technical colleges), state and government agencies, and corrections and juvenile facilities.  The program provides students and adult learners with opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to be successful in digital production printing and workflow careers.

Today’s print industry is changing, and demand for skilled digital printing workers is increasing. Traditional offset printing is a mature technology, while digital technology gives businesses the opportunity to cost-effectively print in smaller quantities, personalize content and achieve stunning quality. The industry recognizes the need for digital capabilities and the skilled workforce to address the need.

Here’s how the print industry ensures a future workforce: @SkillsUSA

What’s the answer? It’s a recommitment to training.  For some, a four-year college degree and ensuing profession is the right choice.  But for others, a different approach may be more appropriate. Skilled trades can provide an excellent alternative or bridge to further education. A four-year college degree may not be right for everyone, but opportunity is. And that’s what SkillsUSA and our Digital Career Pathway Program provide.

We’re thrilled to join SkillsUSA and EFI to celebrate the value of print and interact with the future minds of the industry. At Xerox, we’re passionate about shaping the next generation of print professionals. Efforts like these provide the future workforce with the fundamental tools to succeed.